Standing together in the dark, I looked each of them over, all of them grey in my HUD.
“But really, how bad? Is this ‘fairy pranks and vomiting slugs’ bad, or are we talking ‘slaves to the fairy queens’ bad?”
Vaughn put a grey hand up to a grey chin. “That’s a toughie.”
Samita frowned. “It’s somewhere in between. The little people have infiltrated the entire compound, keeping anyone who isn’t magically protected from noticing anything troubling. Practically the entire world is watching what’s happening in Turkmenistan because it’s everyone’s nightmare. ‘What if the supers take over and rule the country?’ Well, no one in the compound cares now. When shows are interrupted with news, no one pays any attention.”
I thought about it. “You know, that’s actually better than I expected.”
Amy shook her head. “Not really.”
Samita tightened her hand around her staff. “It’s much worse. If they have that kind of control, they can make people misinterpret whatever’s around them. If we went back, we could find ourselves fighting the entire program.”
I swallowed. “Well… What about the teachers? Where’d they go?”
Samita gave a long sigh. “They’re in Denver—all of them. Someone learned from the Hrrnna that if you make the threat bad enough, the program will pitch in too. Practically all of the city’s superhuman criminals are out tonight—“
“And raising hell,” Amy added, exaggerating her normally slight Southern accent.
Glaring briefly at Amy, Samita added, “A few captured the senator and his Secret Service detail. I’d think that it was a plot, but they don’t seem to know what to do with him. It’s almost as if they weren’t planning to do this, but were supernaturally influenced to do it tonight.”
“Wow.” I rolled that around in my head. “I wonder if Adam’s behind that too?”
“Adam?” Vaughn cocked his head. “I know you said he was working with the fey, but are you sure he’s behind this? Could be he got in bed with the wrong people and this is his mess, but not his plan.”
I frowned, but it wasn’t as if they could see it under my mask. “He was down here. He all but confessed that he was behind whatever’s happening in the compound. It could be that he’s been magically influenced, but he sounded like he was in control. And if he’s in control of the compound, why not Denver?”
Amy spoke up. “What does he get out of it? If he is behind all of this, he’s going to a lot of trouble. Why?”
That brought me back to something I’d been too distracted to absorb. “I don’t know for sure because he didn’t say it In so many words—“
Amy interrupted me. “Spit it out, Nick.”
“But,” I continued, “it sounded like it was all somehow connected to the Nine, and Turkmenistan. He seemed to think that the Nine had infiltrated the compound or the Stapledon program, and that keeping me out of it would keep me safe. I don’t know any more than that. He wouldn’t say much.”
Crossing her arms, Amy said, “I wonder why he cares about you? I don’t want you to get hurt either, but why lock you in the basement?”
“He mentioned my dad, and I think he mentioned my grandfather earlier. Could be he doesn’t want me to get hurt, and that’s all.”
“Or,” Vaughn said, “it could be he’s got the hots for you. You never know, right?”
“I don’t think so,” I said.
Samita tapped her staff against the floor. “We need to decide what we’re going to do. We don’t need to fight the fey. If we escalate, they’ll escalate, and our friends will go from being happily deluded to trying to attack us.”
It was a good point. I didn’t want to fight anyone in the program—not if it meant fighting them for real.
Amy spoke before I did. She eyed Samita and said, “Absolutely not. Adam’s endangered who knows how many people, mind controlled even more, including one of the more powerful terrakinetics in the world. Ask yourself this: what’s he going to do if he succeeds at this? What’s his next step? We need to end it now.”
Samita bit her lip. “That body you wear… Do you trust it? You know as well as I do, that it was made to fight. Your head might not be clear after you transform.”
Amy twisted her body, and suddenly I could see my surroundings in red light. At the end of a blurred series of images, Amy stood alone without her spear in jeans and a t-shirt.
Meeting Samita’s eye, Amy said, “I still want to fight. If it’s possible for me to be uninfluenced by my family’s legacy, I’m not. Got it?”
Samita stared at her. “Amy! It’s not that simple. You’re connected to forces that are not easily contained.”
“But I still say go,” Amy said.
Opening my mouth, I added, “Even if it would be safer not to, I need to know what happened to Haley. After that, maybe it will be better to do nothing, but I can’t simply assume she’s okay. I need to be sure.”
“Hey,” Vaughn said, “Haley’s my friend too, and she’s not the only one up there.”
Amy transformed back, red light and visions of strange symbols lighting up the whole room. As the last of the music faded, Amy again held a spear in her hand.